There are other benets as well. “Wearable technologies make it easier to work with precision in the fast-paced logistics environment,” notes Sandeep Sakharkar, chief information ofcer for global 3PL GXO Logistics, based in Greenwich, Connecticut. “The advancements in these technologies are enabling greater precision in inventory management while improving safety. “And, it’s a huge benet for e-commerce order fulllment, which continues to grow as more people buy items online,” he adds. Over seven weeks starting in October 2020 at their distribution center in Everett, Washington, GXO ran a pilot to implement a wearables solution from ProGlove Inc. Employees wore ProGlove smart-glass headsets during inventory picking. The ProGlove system that GXO uses pairs wearable barcode scanners, worn on the back of the hand, with smart glasses that use a software interface to deliver picking information right into the worker’s eld of vision. “The benets of ProGlove improve the health and safety of our employees thanks to its ergonomic design, while improving efciency by 10% and reducing errors by approximately 75% during inventory picking,” Sakharkar explains, detailing the results of the pilot. In September 2021, GXO expanded its partnership with ProGlove to Europe, where it deployed wearable scanners at locations across the UK, France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. Sakharkar is also a big believer in wearables’ benets for an industrial workforce. “Our employees enjoy working with technology that enhances their overall experience,” he says. “Also, employees can excel faster, which increases their overall job satisfaction and opportunities for advancement. And, the technology has also helped GXO “reduce training time for picking by approximately 80%, which is critical during peak,” he adds.
Rufus Labs outfits supply chain workforces with rugged wearable barcode scanners, mobile devices, labor analytics software, and support services in one monthly subscription.
Regardless of the exact numbers, the interest is there and business is strong for manufacturers of wearable devices. Zebra, a dominant industry player, reported a strong third quarter in 2021, posting net sales of $1.44 billion, a year- over-year increase of 26.9%. Wearables provider Kinetic saw four times the deployment of its wearable device in 2021, according to Haytham Elhawary, its founder and CEO. “In 2020, companies jumped on the opportunity to provide their workforce with technology that makes them safer and more productive,” he says. The appeal of wearables goes beyond the cool factor. Wearable devices— which range from voice headsets used for picking to wrist, ring, glove, and head-mounted bar-code scanners, to smart glasses equipped with scanners, to wearable safety devices aimed at improving ergonomics—are known for several key benets including improved worker safety, increased productivity, and the cost reductions stemming from these improvements. Wearables help to improve three important aspects of a warehouse: speed, safety, and accuracy. “Having access to the right data without walking up to the workstation time and again speeds warehouse processes and operations,”
says Sunol. “By keeping the hands as free as possible, wearable devices allow clerks to focus more on the physical process of material handling. “Devices with sensors can warn workers about potential dangers in certain activities and locations, and even suggest preventive measures,” he adds. “And, the level of sophistication that these devices provide reduces error rates associated with larger barcode scanners. “The more advanced the technology you choose, the more accuracy you are
equipped with,” Sunol notes. That speed is a huge benet.
“Normally, you would budget around three seconds to scan something on a normal handheld device,” says Hartwell. “With a wearable, that might be as low as one second. That time savings can add up when it is repeated 200 times an hour.” The size of wearable devices is also a good selling point. As opposed to heavy and bulky handheld scanners that can weigh a few pounds each, the wearable barcode scanners from Rufus Labs, for instance, weigh just eight ounces, according to Gabe Grifoni, CEO of Rufus Labs. “Handheld devices can be heavy, and wearing them all day can lead to arm strain,” he says. “Wearables offer a huge improvement in how warehouse workers feel about their equipment; it makes their job easier and better.”
184 Inbound Logistics • January 2022
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